I have never liked Mother's Day. I don't like Father's Day, either, but that one tends to fly under the radar quite a bit compared to Mother's Day. Right or wrong, with Mother's Day, I feel pressure. With Father's Day, I feel that anything I offer - card, gift, warm sentiment - will be accepted (except, perhaps, by Bill Cosby, who has often complained in his stand-up act and in his television show that his kids' Father's Day presents lacked evidence of care).
But the bar is significantly higher for Mother's Day. It's not that it's set by my mother, particularly, but culturally, this is the one moment when we are all supposed to show our mothers just how much we appreciate them, and the event takes on a kind of sickening tribute to Stepfordism. The cards always focus on all the laundry and cleaning and baking mom always did with little appreciation from the rest of her family (who, in Hallmark-land, never did any of these things themselves). They worship the selfless sacrifice of Hallmark-land mothers.
OK. I'll say it. Hallmark-land bears little resemblance to the real world. In how many families these days are mothers solely responsible for the housework? They may do more of it than other family members, but I'll bet many or most older kids are helping with laundry and cooking and cleaning - that is, if the family doesn't "outsource" this work to a paid employee.
Further, how many of our mothers are set to "selfless sacrifice" all the time? Of course, this is part of a parent's job, to sacrifice for our children and to put their needs first. But it is not ALL of a parent's job, nor is it something that we should - or could - do all the time. A child should see his or her parents as real people, and that means that parents should sometimes put their own needs first. And children, too, should learn that being part of a family means making sacrifices and compromises for and with the other members. It doesn't just happen from the parents on down.
Then, too, Ellen Goodman points out how false the pronouncements of Mother's Day appreciation ring when we see how poorly moms fare in the workplace (not dads, by the way!). We pay a lot of lip service to the importance of family, but we don't think twice about putting moms in the workplace out to pasture on the mommy track.
But none of this is really why I hate Mother's Day. At bottom, I hate it because it is a trumped-up, co-opted holiday. It had its origins in a radical movement to promote peace and disarmament, first, and later, to involve women in fighting for better sanitation. Noble goals. And this has been turned into an excuse to spend money on greeting cards, flowers, jewelry, and restaurants. From a political movement to a lavish expenditure on one's own individual mother, without thought of mothers - and children - who could really use our help.